The day after we arrived in Manaus, Stuart's dad (Alan) flew in from Australia. He landed at around 10:30pm and travelling with him was our new Heidenau K60 Adventure Touring Tyres and 21 valuable tickets to world cup games. Tyres can be very expensive and timely to receive in South America so Stuart cleverly devised a plan to order them on ebay, have them delivered to Alan's home in Australia and make sure Alan packed light so the weight of the tyres would be within his baggage limit. It was a great plan for everyone except Alan who had to lug the tyres around in transit to and from airports and flight transfers. We did really appreciate the effort and it was a big cost saving for us – thanks Alan.
Alan got a day to adjust to the weather and get over his jet lag before some serious discussions began; how were three people and a dog going to travel across Brazil to the following major cities totalling around 9000 km in 4 weeks:
- Belo Horizonte
Alan rides a 250cc Yamaha Virago back in Sydney so was keen to either buy or rent a motorbike to ride with us to the games. He packed his helmut and riding gear plus a tent in preparation for this plan. When he got to Brazil we quickly discovered there were two problems with this plan; getting a suitable bike to do such a trip and getting from Manaus to the rest of Brazil. It just wasn't possible to rent a bike suitable so Alan and Stu had a look at a few bikes up for sale. Unfortunately motorbikes, new and used, were outside his budget and getting one suitable for adventure riding that could travel at high speeds was proving impossible at short notice. We had to start thinking outside the box. If we hired a car we could economise on fuel (1 car as opposed to 3 motorbikes) and effort (alternating drivers). This seemed like the logical way forward.
There is a good road from Venezuela in the north to Manaus but for some reason unknown to us, its very difficult to get from Manaus to the rest of Brazil by road. There is a 'road' from Manaus to the next big town Porto Velho but it hasn't been maintained since the 1960's and being the wet season, its basically a no go for anyone in a rush so we left our bikes with a friend (Elvis) and flew to Porto Velho.
Stuart booked a car online which required the total payment upfront so that someone would be waiting for us at the Porto Velho airport with the car and we could hop in and get moving. When we landed there was no one waiting for us. We spent three hours at the airport trying to chase up our car. By now it was getting late and we needed to be on the road so had no choice but to approach another car hire company at the airport in Porto Velho and hope that we could resolve the problem later and get out money back for the no show (we're still chasing the money).
So what type of car did we hire? Maybe you're thinking we got a beefy 4WD to match our adventure profiles?? That would have been awesome but instead we got a 1L bottom of the range VW Gol. Its a Brazilian built mini shopping cart that runs on ethanol. It had 1300km on the odometer when we collected it and 10300km when we returned it. Cosy is a positive way of describing the four of us with all our luggage sitting in the VW Gol. It did have air-conditioning which was a luxury and great for Skyla. It didn't have cruise control and no radio so Alan very graciously serenaded us. Alan sings and plays a Ukelele and harmonica. He came prepared with a repertoire of 7 songs which we listened to for four weeks. We can't leave out of the story that he also practised these 7 songs every morning outside our room and made impromptu performances in hotel lobbies and public spaces which put smiles on peoples faces.
For the next four weeks we lived and breathed football. If we weren't at a game we were watching games in restaurants, hotels and bars or driving to a city for our next game. We did manage a couple of tourist stops including a couple of waterfalls and two nights in the Chapada region (Mato Grosso) on our way out of Cuiaba. We took the car on a ferry ride in Salvador but this was to save us driving around the harbour, it was still fun and a great photo opportunity.
We took two large Australian flags to every game hoping to get them on TV. We didn't manage that but better than that, people everywhere would approach us to have a group photo with their country flag, it was fantastic!!! by chance, we bumped in to a lady from Fox Sports Brazil and after chatting, arranged a time to interview us with our bikes and Skyla to be aired on TV.
On our way back to Manaus we dropped Alan at an interstate bus terminal in Brasilia for his return to Oz. The very next day The Pack Track drove back to Porto Velho and boarded a plane to Manaus. It was good to see our bikes again although we had left them in a bit of state when we rushed out. Janells gloves were completely ruined, covered in mold and her bike wouldn't start so we had to get the jumper leads out. Once on the road we quickly found out that she also had a flat rear tyre. It was getting late so we couldn't do much about it until the next day. First thing we pulled in to a gas station to put air in it to make riding a little easier. The gas station didn't have air but the tyre store opposite did. As a man was putting the air in the tyres we enquired about somewhere we could get our new tyres fitted. The manager came out of his office, hopped in his car and we followed him to a motorbike mechanic. What luck!! They were so helpful and it only cost the equivalent of US$25 to fit the four tyres.
We spent five nights back in Manaus sorting ourselves out. A highlight was taking a boat trip on the river (Rio Negro) to see the meeting of the black and yellow rivers. You really need to do some sort of boat trip if you get to Manaus. Ours included swimming with pink dolphins, visiting a traditional village, local fishing and checking out local arts and crafts. The boat left at 9am, returned at 6pm, included a fantastic buffet for lunch and cost US$75 per person. It was a really enjoyable day with around 40 other tourists and locals.
Saying goodbye to Manaus and Brazil we were headed for Guyana 'land of many waters'.
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We did the hard yards to get to Brazil and it was definitely worth it. Being in a football nation such as Brazil, following world cup games with people from all over the world and to top it off attending games in top class stadiums was an extraordinary experience that we will never forget.